Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Friend in an Unlikely Place

A Friend in an Unlikely Place

Today we visited a small Arab village called Peki’in. The significance of this tiny village is that it has had a continuous presence of Jews for over 2000 years, one of whom is a small 82 year old woman, Margalit who in the last of her family in Peki’in. She is the descendent of the Jewish priests, Cohenim, who fled Jerusalem during the first diaspora. She is one of four Jewish families left in Peki’in. We learned of the rich history of her family and all they did in Peki’in and then she preceded to bless us.

The most interesting thing about this town isn’t the fact the Jews have had a continuous presence there for over 2000 years. The most interesting thing about this village is the people that live there. They are a small group of Arabs who belong to an exclusive religion called Druze. Druze is a monotheistic religion that combines some of the “best parts” of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They have a very strong value system and are extremely hospitable. This small but proud group of people live mostly in Muslim countries, but because of such harsh persecution many of them fled to Israel. Israel is the only country to recognize the Druze right to religious autonomy. The Druze are also Israeli citizens and identify as so. They take pride in their complete devotion to the State of Israel and participate in Israeli military service.

Although Druze live all over the world in countries such as Syria, Lebanon, England and the United States, the only place they enjoy complete right as citizens is Israel. Because of persecution  by Muslims, the Druzim have chosen to keep the rituals of their religion a secret. However despite such secrecy, the Druzim are a warm and hospitable group of people who coexist peacefully with Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Israel. It makes me feel hopeful that there is a future for peaceful coexistence between the various religions in the Middle East, and Israel is the starting point.


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